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Arsenal of Punctuation: Writing for Seamless Reading

Victoria A. Witkewitz

28 March 2022

Long sentences, short sentences, somewhere in between?  What makes a great recipe for fluid reading?  In this article, we'll explore basic punctuation, how to use it, sentence structure/parts of speech, and the mechanics for churning out some explosive reading.  No hardhat?  No problem, let's architect some ideas together.

What is punctuation?

A very simple and obvious point is that punctuation creates a clarification in meaning and expression in reading-whether aloud or silently.  Punctuation is utilized to express pauses, actions, and stylistic expressions of words.  

Types of punctuation

Let's explore the most commonly used punctuation and some working examples.

Periods-Utilized to end a sentence that makes a statement or a form of abbreviation in an acronym such as Mr. A.D.
Comma-A tool that provides separation between phrases, words, or clauses including but not limited to the lists of items.  I enjoy olives, green pepper, and onion on my pizza.
Semicolon-Joins two independent clauses not connected which signifies that each of the two clauses can stand on its own as a separate sentence.  I had to wear a scratchy school uniform; that was the most uncomfortable four years of my life.
Colon-Utilized to precede a list, colons may be used for salutations of a letter, between numbers to indicate time, formally introduce a sentence, quotation, or question, as well as, introduce a list.  Dear Ms. Johnson: Amy brought her snacks: butter, popcorn, and salt.
Dash-A line that indicates a change in the sentence or a relatively sudden break in thought or idea.  One subject I always liked-social studies.
Question mark-To pose a direct question.  When will you be attending the meeting?
Parenthesis-Utilized around words to ensure clarity.
Apostrophe-To indicate possessive or a contraction between a word.  My father's glasses can't be found.
Brackets-Used before and after material where information is not part of the main content or for quoting another writer.  His conclusion was that "they [the students] should be able to choose one elective for the school year."
Hyphen-Used to join words to create compound words and/or numbers.  Forty-one, U-turn, mother-in-law
Exclamation point-To express a strong feeling or thought.  I can't believe it!
Quotation marks-Utilized in pairs, they are placed before and after words to be spoken aloud.  "Please ensure your seatbelt is fastened for the entire duration of the ride."


Parts of speech

There are eight parts of speech: noun, pronoun, verb, adjective, adverb, conjunction, preposition, and interjection.  Let's see this in action.

Noun-A person, place, thing, or idea that are grouped in classes: proper, common, concrete, abstract, and collective.  Proper nouns are always capitalized whereas common nouns are not.
Grandma Anna, Friday (proper)
rainbow, winter, happiness, love, fence (common)

Pronoun-Utilized in place of a noun.  They can be simple, compound, or phrasal.
I, you, she, he, it (simple)
myself, yourself, himself, ourselves (compound)
one another, each other (phrasal)

Verb-A word that expresses action, existence, state, or occurrence.  Many words can be intransitive or transitive.  An intransitive verb completes its action without the object.
Many famous people joined him on stage. (action)
were present to honor the award recipient. (existence)
I drove my car. (transitive)
I drove over the lane line. (intransitive)

Adjective-A word that is used to describe a pronoun or noun.  A, an, and the, which are known as articles can also be adjectives.
Why did the
peculiar Dodo bird become an extinct species? 

Conjunction-A conjunction connects individual words or groups of words.
Air and plane combine to make the compound word airplane.
A pufferfish is short and round.  (The conjunction connects the word
short to the word round.)

Preposition-A word (or group of words) to indicate how two words or ideas relate to each other.  The tissue hung under Natasha's nose.  (Under shows the relationship between the verb, hung, and the object of the preposition, nose.)

Interjection-A word that expresses meaning or feeling.  Many interjections are used at the beginning of a sentence.
Whoa, that is a large pizza slice.
I have three loads of laundry to do, ugh.


Types of sentences

Let's look at some of the most common sentence types with some examples.  Before we begin, let's discuss clauses.  Clauses contain a group of words that include a subject and a verb relationship.  A predicate is the part of the sentence that indicates what the subject is or what the subject is doing, hence the verb.  

Simple sentence-A sentence that contains only one independent clause or complete thought.
My back aches. (back is the simple subject and aches is the simple predicate)
My hair and nails are long. (compound subject with two nouns and a simple predicate)

Compound sentence-Two or more simple sentences must be joined by punctuation, conjunction, or by both.
The birthday party was a bit hectic, but the joyful feeling was overwhelming.

Complex sentence-Contains one independent clause and one or more dependent clauses.  
People sleep a lot when they have a cold.  (
People sleep a lot is the independent clause and when they have a cold is the dependent clause.)


Final Punctuation

Keep the literary gears greased.  Adding dimension and depth to your writing without over-complicating is key.  Utilize proper punctuation to add emphasis to language, and most of all, do not give up!  Writing can be a difficult but rewarding process.

The story continues on...

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